Your blood sugar is a numeric expression of the amount of glucose present in your blood at any given time. People who are diabetics may need to monitor their blood sugar frequently and take action if the reading is not normal. An understanding of how blood sugar works, what it is and what is considered a normal level can help you properly maintain your blood glucose levels or prompt you to seek out help if you need to.
The glucose present in carbohydrates provides energy; when you eat, your body naturally produces insulin to counterbalance the amount of glucose in y our blood. It is important to maintain a normal blood sugar if you want to stay healthy. Over time, blood sugar that is too high can begin to damage your nerves, eyes, kidneys and blood vessels.
Monitoring your blood sugar, eating the right foods at the right times and if needed, taking insulin can help you maintain normal sugar levels – but what is the normal range for blood sugar?
Start with a Blood Test
There are several ways to measure your blood sugar; the type of test used will depend on your health, current concerns and if you have already been identified as a diabetic. One or more of these tests may be used during a well exam or if your doctor suspects you have diabetes:
FBS or Fasting Blood Sugar: Usually done first thing in the morning, this is a blood test that will test your glucose levels after you’ve been fasting for at least 8 hours. If your doctor suspects you are a candidate for diabetes, this is often the first test she will order.
Postprandial Blood Sugar: Taken two hours after your first bite of a meal, this test will see how well your body is processing sugar. It is not used diagnostically, but by those who already know they have diabetes and who take insulin; the results will confirm that the right amount of insulin is being used.
Random Blood Sugar (RBS) As the name suggests, the timing of this test is random. The idea for this test is to take several measurements at random times throughout the day. If you have normal blood sugar levels, there should not be much of a variety. If your blood sugar levels vary, then it could be a sign of trouble. RBS may also be referred to as a casual blood test.
Oral Glucose Test: Often used to screen for gestational diabetes in pregnant women, blood is drawn an hour after the patient consumes a sugary sweet drink. This test can also be used to diagnose diabetes or after pregnancy to confirm that gestational diabetes has passed.
Hemoglobin Test: How much sugar is stuck to your red blood cells? This test gives a good overview of not just if you have diabetes, but how well your blood sugar has been controlled over time, usually the last few months. This is also called an A1c test or an estimated average glucose test (eAG).
One or more of these tests may be used to give you an idea of what your blood sugar level is and let you and your doctor know if your sugar is normal. In some cases, you’ll need to check your own blood sugar levels regularly with a home device.
Measuring Blood Sugar – What is The Normal Range for Blood Sugar?
According to WebMD, when we measure blood sugar, we use milligrams of glucose or sugar in each deciliter of blood, or (md/dl). This number will reveal if your blood sugar is high, low or normal.
For someone without diabetes, a fasting blood sugar is under 100 mg/dl; blood sugar after eating should be under 140 mg/dl. This range is considered normal by the American Diabetes Association.
People with blood sugar that is higher than this may have a medical condition, often pre-diabetes or diabetes. For diabetics, the American Diabetes Association has set a before meal blood sugar goal of 80 – 130 mg/dl and a post meal goal of under 18 mg/dl. Careful monitoring of your diet will be needed if you are considered diabetic or have higher than normal blood sugar.
What About Low Blood Sugar?
While there is a lot of attention paid to high blood sugar, low blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia can cause health problems and symptoms as well. Low blood sugar is anything under 70 mg/dl and can cause hunger, dizziness or shakiness and similar issues.
Genetics plays a role in how well your body processes sugar, but so do the foods you eat, your weight and your activity level. You can test your own blood sugar at home using a finger stick and a home glucose monitor. The results are instant and can help reveal a problem with blood sugar control. Tracking the results over time can also help reveal if your “normal” blood sugar is really a normal figure at all.
What if My Blood Sugar is Not Normal?
Depending on the tests you’ve already had, your doctor will order more extensive testing to determine if you have diabetes or an underlying cause for your abnormal blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association has set criteria for a diabetes diagnosis; your doctor will use this information to determine what you should do next. You may also be asked to track your sugar over a set period of time or to adhere to a specific diet. Some supplements can also help manage blood sugar effectively and can be beneficial if you are getting results that are not within normal guidelines.
Learning how blood sugar works and what is considered normal can help you get a good idea of where you stand and let you take action if you need to. Finding out your blood sugar levels is an important part of maintaining your health and wellness at any age and can provide key insight into your overall state of health.